Android, iPhone Battling for Lusting BlackBerry OS Users

BlackBerry owners are increasingly becoming a lustful bunch, with a significant amount coveting both the iPhone and Android-powered smartphones, according to a study out today.

Nearly 40 percent of BlackBerry users say their next smartphone purchase would be an iPhone, while a third would also switch to the Android mobile operating system, according to the second smartphone brand loyalty survey conducted semi-annually by the online audience measurement research firm Crowd Science.

The survey also found Android users rivaling iPhone users in loyalty, with about 90 percent of each user group planning to stick with their current brand when buying their next phone.

Asked specifically if they'd swap their present phone for Google's new Android-based Nexus One, 32 percent of BlackBerry users said "yes," compared with just 9 percent of iPhone users. This figure jumped to 60 percent for users of smartphones not made by Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) or Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).

This could be particularly worrisome for RIM, given reports published today citing the Chinese-language Economic Daily News saying that HTC (High Tech Computer) is shipping a CDMA-version of the Nexus One Google phone to Verizon Wireless, which will begin to market the smartphones this month or in April.

"These results show that the restlessness of BlackBerry users with their current brand hasn't just been driven by the allure of iPhone," John Martin, CEO of Crowd Science, said in a statement. "Rather, BlackBerry as a brand just isn't garnering the loyalty seen with other mobile operating systems."

BlackBerry OS, iPhone Being Challenged

News of the BlackBerry brand losing some luster among its user-base comes at a time of unprecedented competition in the smartphone sector -- Apple and RIM are no longer the only favored contenders.

The maturation of the Android OS and the subsequent release in the past six months of several impressive Android-powered handsets is shaking up the pecking order. And, though struggling, Palm's building an ecosystem around webOS with the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus while rumors circulate about a new addition, the Elan.

Yet, despite the Crowd Science survey, RIM continues to retain its spot ahead of Apple in worldwide sales volume, though Apple made big gains, according to Gartner research. For 2009, RIM Blackberrys gained 3.3 points to end the year with a 19.9 percent share. Apple’s iPhone nearly doubled its worldwide market share of smartphone sales to 14.4 percent, up 6.2 points from the year before, according to Gartner. Both still trailed Nokia's Symbian handsets on a global basis, which saw market share dip 5.5 points to 46. 9 percent.

RIM's BlackBerry also continues to retain its No. 1 rank in the U.S. For the quarter ending in January, RIM's BlackBerry garnered 43 percent market share, a 1.7 percent increase from three months earlier, according to research firm comScore. Apple's iPhone held on to second place with 25.1 percent market share, an increase of 0.3 percent from the previous period.

Additionally, the overall smartphone sector continues to thrive, as worldwide fourth-quarter mobile handset sales, which typically always outpace the performance seen in the rest of a year, prove that the trend isn't cooling off anytime soon.

"4Q 2009 saw 25 percent more smartphones shipped than 3Q," Michael Morgan, analyst with ABI Research, said in a statement. "Granted, the fourth quarter is usually better than the third, but 3Q saw only a 3.6 percent growth over the second quarter. The robust strength of this market’s recovery is very encouraging indeed."

Nexus One Debut Makes Mark in Mobile Device Sector

Though Goolge's Nexus One wasn't unveiled until early January, the survey by Crowd Science shows that it still impacted the market. Crowd Science's methodology applies sampling and research techniques to online populations, allowing for real-time results. For instance, a significant event affecting the research -- the debut of Nexus One on Jan. 5 -- occurred midway through the Dec. 24. 2009 to Jan. 21, 2010 study period.

The company was able to measure how the launch affected the attitudes of respondents, for instance, showing a jump in the awareness of the Android operating system, to 66 percent from 60 percent, according to the Crowd Science. Moving from awareness to familiarity, however, results were stable throughout the research period, at about 10 percent for all smartphone users excluding Android owners.

Awareness of the Google Nexus One phone itself following launch was found to be 91 percent among iPhone users, 75 percent among BlackBerry users, and 73 percent among users of other smartphones. The survey also found that Android users skew younger and less affluent than iPhone and BlackBerry users.

Free Mobile Apps Favored, BlackBerry Apps Lagging

Other survey results conclude that users of all types of smartphones had downloaded more free applications than paid ones during the preceding seven days, with iPhone users significantly more likely to pay for apps, Android users leading in free apps and BlackBerry users far behind on both fronts.

Both Android users and iPhone owners were found much more likely than BlackBerry users to use their phones only for personal use (32, 28 and 16 percents respectively). On the other hand, 7 percent of BlackBerry users use their phone only for business, while just 1 percent do so with the iPhone.

For the survey, the Crowd Science tapped 1,140 respondents who were randomly recruited via the Crowd Science Sample Beta program from Web sites serving more than 20 million unique visitors. The vast majority of respondents, 44 percent, used a regular cell phone, not a smart phone. iPhone users represented 17 percent of the respondents, followed by BlackBerry users at 15 percent, Nokia at 10 percent, Windows Mobile checking in at 4 percent, followed by Android's 3 percent and Palm's 2 percent.

TAGS:

Google, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry OS, BlackBerry applications

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